BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Caribbean Tourism Organization officials predict a 4% to 5% increase in tourism this year, following on the heels of a 6% jump in tourism arrivals in 2003 from all major markets.

Last year, U.S. arrivals to the Caribbean were up 4%; arrivals from Canada increased 15%; and from Europe, 9%.

Some of the factors that will impact the region's tourism performance this year include a weak U.S. dollar abroad; safety and security issues; improved economies in the U.S., Canada and the European markets; and the English cricket tour of the Caribbean this summer, according to Arley Sobers, CTO's director of research and information management.

Meanwhile, to promote the Caribbean on multiple fronts in 2004, CTO has rolled out an aggressive marketing campaign.

"We've restructured our initiatives to better utilize our resources," said Hugh Riley, director of marketing for the Americas. "Our overall objective is to enhance visitor traffic to the Caribbean."

Initiatives include media promotions, which will feature the use of well-known personalities as Caribbean spokespersons; Caribbean Week events in major cities, such as is done in New York each spring, to showcase the culture, history, music and vacation-special offers from many Caribbean destinations; trade and consumer shows for agents in major cities; and a repeat next fall of CTO's annual road show series.

Riley promised more CTO chapter support this year, increased marketing support to emerging tourism destinations, and enhanced Web site resources, such as a member directory, tourism statistics and a wedding requirements chart.

For details, visit CTO on the Web at www.doitcaribbean.com.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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